How To: Track File Downloads with Google Analytics

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 | Business, Tutorials | by

Google Analytics is what most people use nowadays for web traffic reports.  It is flexible, powerful and simple.

The problem with Google Analytics is that it doesn’t analyze web traffic reports, but generates data in real time.  In most cases, this isn’t a problem.  In fact, it is big feature.  The problem is what about files that do not parse javascript such as PDFs, ZIP files, or other non-HTML documents.

When a user clicks on a PDF from your site, you will never see that PDF in Google Analytics.

How to track File downloads with Google Analytics
It’s very easy.  As is most things with Google Analytics.

Google Analytics provides a method for tracking anything you want.  It’s called “_trackPageview”.

You use it in javascript as “pageTracker._trackPageview(‘/downloads/map’);”.

How does this help us track file downloads?  Simply modify the link to the file asset to have an “onClick”:

Link to the file here:

<a onclick=”javascript: pageTracker._trackPageview(‘somefile.pdf’);” href=”somefile.pdf”>Download somefile.pdf</a>


See how easy that was?

Hopefully you have a function used to print out those links, then you can modify it in one place (that’s what I did).

You should see results in Google Analytics under Top Content shortly.

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11 Comments to How To: Track File Downloads with Google Analytics

March 26, 2009

This is a very useful tip. I have bookmarked this page so I can come back when I start adding different type of contents on my site.


April 3, 2009

Thanks for sharing it. I learn a lot from your post. I will try it in my google analytics.

[…] How to Track File Downloads in Google Analytics How Do I Manually Track Clicks on Outbound Links in Google Analytics? Google site

Susan Blair
September 17, 2009

Question: Does anyone know anyone that might be interested in being a mentor for affiliate marketing? I am not sure how to ask, and was hoping someone that reads your wonderful blog may know of someone. If yes, my email is Thank you so much, I am getting very desperate.

January 26, 2010

I’m wondering if this may be used to track external accesses to the PDF URL, ie without loading the web page where the onClick event is located. Any help? Thanks !!!!!

January 26, 2010

I doubt this could track access to PDFs without loading the web page. The only way (that I know of, happy to learn otherwise) is to use server side logs. These aren’t as popular as they once were, but are probably more accurate than the standard Javascript tracking we do nowadays (Google Analytics). Those logs will contain downloads of PDF files without any referring page.

June 29, 2010

Great tip – thanks.

Do you happen to know anything about treating events in Google Analytics as conversions?


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January 14, 2011

Thanks for the information.Google Analytics is now becoming a subject of discussion.I tried many times to track file downloads with google analytics but i couldn’t do it.But now it works successfully when i followed your instructions.Thanks again for the great information!!

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January 28, 2011

Great article!!Thanks for the step-by-step explanation.I followed these steps and successfully implemented it…thanks again for the information…Carry on the great work!

April 26, 2011


If I have many PDF to download on my pages then is there any code that can track download of any PDF,


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